Globalization - Metaphysical construct

4 February 2003
Only in en

Dimitar Vatsov

The paper analyses some metaphysical and ideological rudiments in the contemporary discourses
on globalization. It proceeds in the following steps:
First of all, as a preliminary history, Derrida’s term of “transcendental signified” is directed
against deconstruction itself and against postmodern critique. The thesis is that figures such as
“text” or “discourse” in the postmodern theory and literature play the role of center or of transcendental
signified. In comparison with the classical European metaphysics, “discourse” is neither
subjective nor objective, neither active nor passive – it is anonymous and medial. It is a point of contingency,
not of necessity. But its function to allow and explain everything, to be the first and the
final point of every argumentation, follows the metaphysical way of reasoning. The figures of the postmodern argumentation are deterministic, even though the shape of destiny changed.
Whatever the resistances against the radical postmodernism are, contemporary debates on
globalization reproduce similar figures. It does not matter if we argue our positions with “social
realism or constructivism” – now the social (or society, humankind, etc.) takes the place of the transcendental
signified. Mostly on the basis of The World Risk Society by Ulrich Beck and The Global
Age
by Martin Albrow, I demonstrate that, instead of discourse, now the social is anonymous, medial
and amorphous source of every argumentation and reality.
Then the global discourses reproduce two main metaphysical and ideological features. The
first one is the Enlightenment idealization that the “whole world” (globus) is highlighted, without
shadow or residue. The second one is Kantian idealization about the universal justice, nominally
replaced by the rhetorics of the world democracy and human rights.

These abstract idealizations are dangerous since they hide the actual power in our practical and
speech acts. They result in the anonymization of power (on institutional level) and in the anonymization
of resistances against power (terrorism, for example). The problem is recognized like a practical
contradiction between the actual level of power and its utopically and ideologically constructed
(upon the idea of universal justice) institutional level. My presupposition is: our practical and
speech acts are not and could not be “pure” and “interest-less” because they always actually
include power – they privilege something and ignore another thing in every case. The actual power
sediments in the actual evaluating in every interpretation (the actual unity of interpretation and
evaluation is the basic point of Nietzschean perspectivism).
The direction to solve the problem is neither deconstructing democracy, nor keeping it like an
“ideal” or “regulative rule”. First of all, we have to abandon the idealizations about interpretation
as “interest-less”, “neutral”, “value-free”. Then it is better to be free in evaluating, than to hide our
real evaluations behind “the universal justice” or behind its mirror-image: “the value-neutrality”.
The real publicity is a struggle of powers that are not universally fair, it is not a place of opinions
that have equal rights – democracy could not be founded without contradiction on the individual
“human rights”.
In order to escape the reifications of power (characterizing every ideology with once and forever
privileged subject of power – Marxism, Nazism, nationalism) and to suggest a social form of
control I attempt a rehabilitation of authority as a practical figure. Authority has not to be thought
as incorporated transcendence (figure that takes its power from outside). Authority has this one,
who actually becomes a subject of interpretation and evaluation and who manages to remain in the subject’s
privileged position – he needs recognition. Condition of authority is the openness of one’s
power claim – it makes responsibility possible as a practical form of social control.

Published 4 February 2003

Original in English
First published in

Contributed by Critique & Humanism
© Critique and Humanism Eurozine

PDF / PRINT

recommended articles